Haldane, J.B.S. 1892 - 1961

British; Indian

(1892-1965), geneticist

John Burdon Sanderson Haldane was born in Oxford on 5 November 1892. He was educated in Lynam’s School, Oxford and Eton, before studying mathematics, classics, and philosophy at New College, Oxford. During the First World War, Haldane served in the 3rd battalion of the Black Watch and was wounded in both France (1915) and Mesopotamia (1916).

In 1919, Haldane returned to New College after a period of convalescence in India, and began conducting research in physiology and genetics. In 1923, he became Reader in Biochemistry at Cambridge, and also directed genetics investigations at the John Innes Horticultural Research Station in Merton, Surrey, between 1927 and 1936. In 1933, he left Cambridge to take up the Chair of Genetics (later Chair of Biometry) at University College London (UCL). Following the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, he moved from London to conduct research at the Rothamsted Experimental Station, Hertfordshire. During this period of his career, Haldane became a key figure in the synthesis of Darwinian evolution and Mendelian genetics, using mathematical models to explore the mechanisms of natural selection.

Haldane retired from UCL in 1957 and immigrated to India, where he joined the Biometry Research Unit at the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta. In 1961, he was appointed head of the Laboratory of Genetics and Biometry in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. Haldane became an Indian citizen in the same year.

Haldane was married twice, first to journalist Charlotte Bughes (1894-1969) in 1926, and then to former student (and later lecturer) Helen Spurway (d. 1978) in 1945. He died from cancer in Bhubaneswar on 1 December 1964.